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Noises in the Woods: The 2001 Mill Valley Film Festival

What a treat. This year’s Mill Valley Film Festival (just north of San Francisco) gave us a variety of studio-funded Oscar contenders, intriguing and insightful documentaries, and quirky foreign films — not to mention a slew of guest appearances and tributes to the great ones of cinema.

This year, the festival crammed more than 100 films into a ten-day span, among three movie houses in San Rafael, Mill Valley, and Corte Madera. Various tributes were rolled out for Jonathan Winters, William H. Macy, Sissy Spacek, Ismael Merchant, and Malcolm McDowell. And by and large, films including David Mamet’s Heist, the Coen brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There, Richard Linklater’s Tape, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie were delightful.

The festival’s ‘Valley of The Docs’ showcased more than 27 top-notch documentaries from around the world. The films covered such diverse themes as the influence of Elvis Presley from beyond the grave in Almost Elvis, the infamous reign of Rudy Giuliani over Gotham City in Rudyland, the hilarious road trip of a roving, mentally-disabled news crew in How’s Your News?, and the roller-coaster ride of a dot-com’s glories and horrors in e-Dreams.

I managed to catch some of the most notable titles at the fest. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie is a stunning tour-de-force, and the Next Big Thing from Australia, The Bank, has a plot secret that rivals The Crying Game. And the best example of DIY filmmaking was demonstrated in the remarkable documentary e-Dreams with a line in its closing credits, which stated, ‘The entire film you’ve just watched was editing on Final Cut Pro in the director’s living room.’ Nice.

The most notable films I missed at the festival were the latest Steve Martin noir, Novocaine, the period drama Focus, with William H. Macy, the Canadian import Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner, Arliss Howard’s directorial debut Big Bad Love, and the film hyped as ‘The Next Trainspottingentitled Late Night Shopping. And what festival would not be complete without the latest Dogma 95 film, Reunion? Alas, there are only so many hours in the day….

Festival recap (click for full reviews):

All the Queen’s Men
Amelie from Montmartre
The Bank
Gangster No. 1
How’s Your News?
The Man Who Wasn’t There

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